The farther I get into this cancer saga the more I find myself dealing with discomforts around the variety of ways in which the treatments and results disrupt my familiar, chosen routines. I’m not just talking about physical discomforts here—though there are plenty of those—I’m talking about mental and emotional discomforts. That sensation of cognitive dissonance, of having to simultaneously hold two different and competing realities, is really fierce sometimes. Right now is one of those times. On the one hand, I want to keep doing all the things I normally do, and participate in all the events that define my year’s rhythm. On the other hand, I have to acknowledge and respect the cumulative fatigue and fog from the chemo treatments that’s following me around all the time now. I am torn between defiantly shaking my fist/blowing raspberries at cancer (“you can’t take the sky away from me, you bastard!”) and wanting to wrap myself up in a soft cocoon of gentle self-love (“I will not get caught up in expectations of doing, my job is just to rest and heal.”)
Where this conflict seems most acute at the moment is around my writing and my writer identity. First of all, the writing routine I used to have is long gone, shattered by a schedule that is now pockmarked by and increasingly filled up with various kinds of self-care, including a lot of extra sleeping. And even when I do have the time or interest to sit at the computer, I’m finding it really difficult to open up my novel manuscript and have anything to say, even though I have an outline and supposedly know where the story is going. It’s hard to concentrate or imagine new things. Now, rest assured gentle reader, words are still being made. I journal every few days, and sometimes try to put together a blog post like this one (though it’s been a month since I last posted, sigh). But they’re slow and not getting me any further down the fiction-writing road to which I’ve committed both my time and a significant piece of my identity. And if writers are only writers if they write—and I’m not writing—then does that mean I’m not a writer anymore? Did cancer take that identity away from me too? Dammit! <shakes fist defiantly>
But even more acutely, with my third chemo treatment scheduled for tomorrow, I have reluctantly had to cancel going to one of my favorite writer events this weekend (FOGcon, my local speculative fiction convention. I’ve attended every year for the past 5 years since it started.) At first I thought maybe I could at least go for a day, or go for the weekend but retreat to my hotel room whenever I needed a nap, but the reality started to sink in that I was really unlikely to feel good physically or mentally (and since most of what I’d be there for would be for mental stimulation, that would make going frustrating at best and pointless at worst). So I cancelled my hotel room, and will eat the cost of the convention membership, and mope instead of write. There is another writer convention in May over Memorial Day weekend (Wiscon), and I’ll hold out hope that maybe my treatment/surgery schedule will at least allow me to go to that. Though who knows? Part of the fist-shaking irritation here is that I just can’t plan for anything, or if I do that I have to hold everything lightly and without complete commitment, because cancer just shoved and shouldered its way to the front of the priority line and everything behind it will just have to wait its damn turn. And I have Things To Do, people, things I want and love to do, things that reinforce my chosen positive identities and bring me satisfaction that I am living the life I want to live. I had settled into a pretty great regular routine of enjoyable events and activities throughout the year that gave shape to my life and that I looked forward to (not just writing stuff but many other things too). I hate that this year all the enjoyable Things must be (or at least potentially be) put aside or shoved to the margins while I deal with My Year Of Cancer Redux. Will I be able to run my Fly Your Freak Flag High booth at Maker Faire or go to Wiscon in May? Go to my nephew’s high school graduation in June? Take a vacation with my family this summer? Finish my goddamn novel? Who the hell knows. First I have to focus on recovering from all the chemo and surgeries and all the side effects that come with them, whether I like it or not. I don’t like this new life, this new normal, however temporary it may be. I want my old life and my familiar rhythms back. Some disruption can be fun, or creatively re-charging; but this is not that kind of disruption, and I don’t want it. I’d shake my fist again here but I’m too tired.